Three hundred Liverpool shirts have been sent to the small Senegalese village of Bambali in the buildup to the Champions League final, donated by Sadio Mane, its most famous son.
On Saturday he aims to deliver on a promise to spare his childhood friend the despair and disbelief that accompanied Liverpool’s triumph in Istanbul.
The gift set will be complete when he brings a European Cup winner’s medal back home.
“I remember AC Milan v Liverpool in 2005,” Mane explains. “Three-nil down, then 3-3 and penalties. This was a big memory for me. I was watching in my village, Bambali.
“I remember being with my friend, a big friend of mine, and at 3-0 down he was completely out of it. He stopped watching and ran like crazy to get away. Then he came back at the end and he could not believe it.
“Even to this day he cannot believe it. He came back after the game when Liverpool had won.”
Mané dissolves into laughter at the 13-year-old memory, half his lifetime ago. The Liverpool forward laughed at his friend’s antics at the time – “I was not supporting Liverpool then, I was a Barcelona fan,” he admits – but thoughts of the club’s eighth European Cup final appearance stir pride. “If you had said then I would be playing the final I would say it is something incredible in my life,” he says. “Hopefully we are going to win.”
Bambali, bedecked in red, will be united behind the Senegal forward against Real Madrid in Kiev. Their pride in Mané’s rise to global stardom is not lost on the 26-year‑old, who remains in regular contact with family and friends back home, including the one who missed the comeback that secured Liverpool’s last Champions League triumph. “I spoke to him yesterday,” Mané says. “He is a big Liverpool fan. He is still in Senegal. His name is Youssouph Diatta. He asked me that this time do not be 3-0 down.
“Nobody in the village will work this day. My family still live in the village. My mum and my uncle. They are all going to be watching. There are 2,000 in the village. I bought 300 Liverpool jerseys to send to the people in the village so the fans can wear them to watch the final. I will be going back in the summer after the World Cup and hopefully I will be showing everyone a winner’s medal.”